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Bridging the Digital Divide: TechServ Seeks Used Computers to Refurbish For Philadelphia Non-Profits

November 14, 2012

Members of TechServ, a Drexel student organization founded in 2002, are accepting donations for used computers that they can adopt and refurbish for nonprofit organizations in an effort to help bridge the digital divide in the Philadelphia area.

TechServ will refurbish and donate an estimated 300 to 400 recycled computers this year, more than tripling the amounts of recent years, according to the organization’s president, Julian Kemmerer, a pre-junior studying computer engineering.

“We’ve never had a problem with having enough requests [for outgoing refurbished systems]. It seems to be computers coming in - that’s the problem,” said Kemmerer.

The club receives used computers from various Drexel departments and local businesses. As the computers come in, TechServ works to refurbish the systems, a process which includes hard disk wiping and Linux distribution installation. As the final step, the systems are donated for use in nonprofit organizations throughout Philadelphia that include community centers, homeless shelters, and churches.

Most of the computers the team receives are functional. Only about 10 to 20 percent of the computers come in damaged and half of these are fixable, as all of TechServ’s members are trained in troubleshooting as part of the program.

“Space-wise, it would be great to have more storage. Otherwise there’s nothing really stopping us,” said Kemmerer after commenting on the surplus of volunteers in contrast to the limited physical space they have for both storage and to complete refurbishment.

In addition to its computer donating initiative, TechServ also hosts two to three events on campus each academic term. These include events like the Community Genius Bar, a free advice session and technical diagnosis hosted by TechServ members to solve the public’s personal computer issues.

TechServ also tries to hold at least one event geared toward fun per school term, such as their video gaming parties hosted in collaboration with another student organization called DragonLAN. At LAN parties, gamers gather in a spot on campus with their PCs and connect to a local network to play video games against each other from their separate computers.

About 60 of TechServ’s members come from University 101 classes that require freshmen to participate in civic engagement each year. Otherwise, there are about 20 TechServ members from all areas of study who come back year after year.

To find out more about donating computers to TechServ, click here.